Person doing the lottery

Lottery numbers

Understanding the stats

Q: My dad refuses to pick 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 on the Lotto draw. Is this sensible?

A: Those six numbers are just as likely to come up as any other six numbers. In the UK Lotto, six numbers are drawn at random from numbers 1 to 49, giving 13,983,816 possible combinations. The chance of winning is approximately 1 in 14 million, no matter which numbers you pick. However, there is a very good reason why your dad shouldn’t play 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 – if he did win, he would win less money than with another combination.

An estimated 10,000 players a week choose the combination of balls 1 to 6. If you picked those numbers too and they came up, you’d have to share your cash with all those other people, which would severely dilute your winnings. Although you can’t increase your chances of winning, there are other ways you might increase the potential amount you’d win. People pick numbers between 1 and 31 more often, for example, because they correspond to the birthdays of people they know. Selecting six numbers between 32 and 49 is more likely to set you apart from the crowd.

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Further reading

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Number Crunching’ in June 2013.

Statistics and maths
Number Crunching
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development